Tag Archives: gorge

Kern River Camping

relaxing at kern

Kern River California

Kern River is a top recreation destination for the lower half of the state, since it is the only big Sierra river within easy reach of Southern California.

Lower mountain elevations 2000-4000′ means camping all year is possible on the Kern. With only a few inches of rainfall, plus an average high temperature of 60 degrees in December & January, Kernville has become a year-round recreation destination for the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Kern Canyon and most surrounding mountains are managed by USDA: Sequoia National Forest, which extends south to the Tehachapi range!

Sierra Nevada ROAD CLOSURES during winter restricts that Kern Canyon is only accessible via the Hwy 178 route. Both the Western Divide Highway (to the north) and Sherman’s Pass Road (to the east) close for many months, due to snow. (typically, NOV-APRIL closure)

Snowy Springs

 

Popular Kern Recreation – backpacking, camping, fishing, hiking, river rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, off-roading & floating (inner tubing).

Kern Tube Ready

Kern River can be divided into 5 different & distinct regions:

kern gorge
Granite gorge, Kern River, South of Whitney

Kern River High Country

headwaters of the Kern River.
High Sierra, Golden Trout Wilderness, Kern Hot Springs, Mount Whitney snowmelt, Kern Gorge. foot access only, wilderness backcountry. fishing, day hikes, backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering, horse packs.

fencedmeadow

Upper Kern Plateau

Southern Fork of the Kern River
Golden Trout Wilderness
Monache Meadows (Inyo NF)
Troy Meadows
Kennedy Meadows
Horse Meadow Campground
Big Meadow
Long Valley Campground
Chimney Creek Campground
Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway

johnsondale bridge @ KERN

Forks of the Kern

(areas north of Johnsondale)

Johnsondale Bridge
backpackers & fishing trailheads
Big parking lot at the bridge. trails travel rivers edge into a tight canyon, impressive rock gorge continues up to the tallest mountain peaks in the High Sierra.

rincon
Shermans Pass Road turn-off
paved route that connects Kern River to Mojave desert.

RINCON CAMP – The Rincon Fault (an earthquake faut line) runs in a north-south direction, on the east side of Kern River. Popular and rugged RINCON, a dirt bike and mountain bike trail runs this ridge as well. An overgrown hunters camp (which has been almost destroyed) is located up hill from Brush Creek falls; but accessible via unmaintained dirt road – unsigned pull out, just off Shermans’ Pass Road. High clearance vehicle is needed to reach this spot.

Johnsondale Cabins: R Ranch

johnsondale
Johnsondale under Fire 2002

Sequoia #22S82 – Forks of the Kern Road

Boy Scout Camp Whitsett
Lloyds Meadow
Kern River Gorge
Lower Peppermint Campground
Primitive camps – Camp 1, Camp 2, Camp 3, Camp 4, Camp 5
Jerky Meadows Trailhead to Golden Trout Wilderness

kern flat camping

Upper Kern River

Kern River north of Kernville, CANFS

This part of the river sees much of the action, with kayakers, river rafters, fishermen, RVs, motorcycles, mountain bikers, backpackers and campers, seeking easy river access, hiking trailheads or just a good picnic spot.

Numerous small lodges between Kernville & Johnsondale

Brush Creek: awesome waterfalls & pools on Brush Creek, only accessible by hiking trail.

Rincon Trail runs above the river on the east side, via the Rincon earthquake fault. This is right where Brush Creek comes down the steep mountain. RINCON is favorite mountain biking trail, that is also open to dirt bikes (OHV) & equestrian, so share the trail and play nice. Rincon Camp is rugged, may be overgrown and unmaintained. Long dirt road might require high clearance vehicle or possible 4×4, if weather is wet.

kern fishing

Lake Isabella

Huge recreational reservoir in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Dry and high desert terrain. Canyons have more vegetation. East part of lake is a wildlife refuge w/ abundant cottonwood trees, which turn golden yellow in Autumn.

The earthen dam is on the south westside. California State Route 178 (Hwy 178), which connects Mojave desert w/ Bako. This major east-west Sierra route is a four-laner (freeway) cutting thru the valley. EXIT#  intersects w/ CA 155 to reach Alta Sierra, Wofford Heights, Kernville and all place north of there.

Breckenridge is a Mountain to the south of Isabella and Lower Kern. Tall pines with an empty campground awaits!

Isabella Lake

Lower Kern River

(river access / camping, southwest of Lake Isabella)

Historic Kern – Keyesville OHV
Off-Road Camping

hobo camping
Hobo Camp has a fishing trail along the river.

Old Kern Canyon Road

Minimal to modest campsites in the lower canyon. Most seclusion for overnight spots, can be found along the empty stretches of the Old Kern Canyon Road. Many curvy mountain miles, one lane, paved, several flat spots for easy road-side camping. Caution for cattle in roadway. Speed limit is generally under 40 mph for this historic route which parallels the 178, in between Lake Isabella and Bako.

Kern River Hot Tub
Local Hot Springs

California Camping River

map river | hiking river | map gorge

California Rivers & River Topo Maps

Tent Camp Yosemite Valley

There are many gorgeous rivers in California that are perfect for camping and fishing, but none are located in Southern California. None! Yep, you read that right. If you think about it, the golden state is about half desert! The majority of our natural water in our state is coming from the north – so take this as a warning: you might need to drive a few hours to find your ideal river camp.

The easy-to-access waterways are found mostly along highways in the Sierra Nevada – or way up in NorCal. Deep granite gorges carved out by glaciers, surrounded by forested peaks is only half the appeal. High elevation lakes, waterfalls, big trees, abundant wildlife, and the alpine villages are all part of the Sierra Nevada experience.  Raft, kayak, fly fish, hike, bike or just camp out next to a big, rushing, flowing river. Our selection of California maps will get you narrowed down to a specific region, so you can find that perfect river campground, or explore and discover the back roads – for the most seclusion.

NorCal Rivers:

Burney Falls
Burney Falls, is part of the Pit River

EEL RIVER
KLAMATH RIVER – Klamath NF Map
MAD RIVER – NFS Campground
MATTOLE RIVER
McCLOUD RIVER
NAVARRO RIVER
NEW RIVER
NOYO RIVER
PIT RIVER
RUSSIAN RIVER
SACRAMENTO RIVER CAMPING
SALMON RIVER
6 RIVERS NATIONAL FOREST
SMITH RIVER
TRINITY RIVER
VAN DUZEN RIVER

MiddleForkFeather
Middle Fork of Feather River, Berry Creek, CA

Sierra Nevada Rivers:

AMERICAN RIVER – El Dorado NF Map
CONSUMNES RIVER – Stanislaus NF Map
FEATHER RIVER Recreation Map
FEATHER RIVER – Plumas NF Map

Kern River Hot Tub
Kern River Hot Tub

KAWEAH RIVER – Sequoia
KERN RIVER CAMPING
KERN RIVER – Sequoia
KINGS RIVER California
KINGS RIVER CAMPING
KINGS RIVER – Sequoia Kings Canyon Map
KINGS CANYON NP
MERCED RIVER – Sierra
MERCED RIVER – Yosemite Map
MOKELUMNE RIVER – El Dorado NF Map
OWENS RIVER – Inyo NF Map
SAN JOAQUIN RIVER – Sierra NF
SOUTH YUBA RIVER Recreation Map
STANISLAUS RIVER – Sonora Pass
STANISLAUS RIVER – Stanislaus NF Map
TULE RIVER – Sequoia
YUBA RIVER – North Gold Country
YUBA RIVER – Tahoe NF Map

SoCal Rivers:

COLORADO RIVER CAMPING
Colorado River Jet Ski
LAKE HAVASU
LAKE MEAD (NV) Recreation Map
LAKE MOHAVE

SANTA YNEZ RIVER @ Lake Cachuma – Santa Barbara Mountains
SESPE RIVER – more creek than river, Los Padres NF & SESPE WILDERNESS

Colorado River California
Colorado River California

 

LOCAL TIPS
River Destinations in Calif

calmrivers
Lower Kern River – Calm but Dangerous

KERN RIVER: The Kern River is one of the most popular of all the Sierra rivers due to its proximity to SoCal. Hurried, stressed-out, Angelinos (LA) can be at this destination in under 3 hours – which makes it a very busy place most months.

So, let it be told, that summer is not the best time to enjoy the Kern. If you do plan a summer outting, make sure you head for the Upper Kern (10+ mi N of Kernville & Lake Isabella) or the North Fork of the Kern (out in Monache Meadows) where 4×4 is often needed.

The Lower Kern River has only 2 developed campgrounds: Hobo (closed for damage 2019) and Sandy Flat (open all year). Numerous primitive camp spots are available along Old Kern Canyon Rd, which parallels the Hwy 178 on the south side. None of which are located at the rivers edges. Remington Hot Springs is a popular spot for soaking. Fishing trails, mountain biking trails and hiking trails, all over. Fire danger is great in this area, so pay extra close attention to signs and fire restrictions.

Kern River above Lake Isabella and Kernville is a better choice for camping availability.

Beer at River

YOSEMITE RIVER: Yosemite National Park –
Merced River & Tuolumne River

NPSEverybody loves Yosemite! This is the most popular park in the whole state. The majority of campers want to stay “right on the river” when they visit Yosemite NP, but that is just plain old impossible, since reservations go fast and there is only so much room for everyone in this enclosed, narrow, precious valley. This particular park has some major floods (1997 & 2005) that wiped out bridges, road ways; all the old wooden cabins (at Yosemite Lodge) are gone and only half of the campgrounds are still available. Yosemite has had 11 winter floods since 1916 that have caused substantial damage to property. That number is expected to increase, as winter precipitation is getting less predictable.

Reservations are taken for camping and cabins – far in advance; like one year. No joke!

3 Yosemite Campgrounds are located next to the Merced River (inside spectacular Yosemite Valley)

hikehike

Way up in the Yosemite high country, which is only open a few months outta the year, the beautiful Tuolumne Meadows Campground is located next to lush meadows and the scenic Tuolumne River. All Yosemite campsites must be reserved well in advance, so visit links above – if you are serious about a Yosemite camping trip anytime soon.

Mokelumne

MOKELUMNE RIVER: Way up the road, deep in the western Sierra, Gold Country. Small NFS campgrounds, right on the river; Access is long paved, switch back roads, not suitable for RVs or trailers.

STANISLAUS RIVER: The Sonora Pass, the fishing is very decent way back in this granite gorge. Highway 108 is only open a few months outta the year, due to snow & rock slides – so time is of the essence. Summer time is prime vacation weather up here. Several campgrounds are located right on the river, or on the major feeder streams. Or you can opt for secluded primitive camping on the back roads. Find Sonora camping in Stanislaus National Forest.

YUBA RIVER: The biggest play time river in the northern Gold Country, this runs along Hwy 49 near Downieville and also has a major South Fork for the best swimming holes and primitive camping in this region. Tubing, rafting, kayaking, fishing, camping, gold panning, you name it, Yuba has it. Look for more on the South Yuba Recreation Map, or the USDA issued Tahoe National Forest Map

FEATHER RIVER: Top fishing river in the Lassen to Oroville area. Chester and Lake Almanor in the upper reaches. High Bridge Campground is nice paved-camp-site camping; a forested spot where you can fish 2 rivers on the same day. A Plumas NF or Lassen NF map would be quite helpful for this region. Lower down the mountain, lower Feather Rivers which include all 4 forks which feed Lake Oroville – West Fork (Paradise, CA), North Fork, Middle Fork Feather, (Berry Creek, CA) and the South Fork (Lumpkin). Lots of waterways and creeks worth exploring in between Chico and the mountain town of Quincy.

KINGS RIVER: This one particular river is the longest in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, pulling snow melt from the upper reaches of the High Country and Mount Whitney. The river area just to the West of the National Park, over to Pine Flat Reservoir, is all prime for outdoor recreation. Several river rafting companies work this stretch of river.

CAMP FOUR & A HALF CABIN RENTAL
NFS KINGS RIVER
NFSrangers

hikehike

Kings River Rafters

River Beach Campground
Trinity River Camping, Douglas City, CA
riverrunsclear
Sierra Nevada Rivers are the dreams that Summers are made of.


Kern River Canyon

Kern Spring Wildflowers

Kern River Valley is one of the all time favorite Sierra Nevada destinations for SoCal escapees. First, it is the southern most ‘big river’ action for the Sierra range. The drive up from Los Angeles is easy access; only a coupe of hours. California Highway 178 leads from Bakersfield up the mountain to Lake Isabella (exit at 155 for Kernville destinations). The 178 continues east past the rural communities of Onyx, Canebrake, Weldon, and then on to the Northern Mojave desert & US Highway 395

Second, Kern has an abundance of outdoor recreation, from fishing to boating, river rafting to kayaking, backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, hiking, camping, & soaking. Kernville is the “recreation headquarters” for the region, where you can find rafting outfitters, camping supplies and rental equipment.

Kern Rafting

Third, the mountain scenery is very diverse – with the dry shores of Lake Isabella, the granite lined Kern River, or the ridges with towering cedar forests, plenty sugar pines, plus a few Sequoia groves; Tons of dirt back roads to explore, granite & gorges for the rock climbers, prime wilderness access & several primitive hot springs.

The whole area is encompassed by the Sequoia National Forest with wilderness areas to the North & East. Giant Sequoia National Monument is located along the Western Divide Hwy in the northern portion of the National Forest.

campingFIND CAMPING along the Kern River

camping Sequoia National ForestFIND ALL Campgrounds in the Kern River Canyon

Kern River Valley communities include:

Whether you’re an RVer wanting a developed campground near town, a fisherman needing a primitive site right on the river, or a backpacker seeking the high country, the Kern has a little bit of everything. High elevations beyond 8000′ ridge lines, or the lush Lower Kern under 2000′ with granite boulders lining, Kern has it. 4 wheelers will love the extensive network of dirt back roads, or maybe the OHV areas of Keysville. Lake Isabella has numerous oak lined campgrounds & boat rentals available too. Summer is not the best time to visit as the temperatures soar to 100 degrees & the city crowds come in full force to the Kern Valley. Springtime, the best season to visit runs from March to May, or Autumn cools for September to December.

  • SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST MAP
  • DOME LAND WILDERNESS MAP
  • GOLDEN TROUT WILDERNESS MAP
  • SOUTH SIERRA WILDERNESS MAP
  • KernWildflowers

    HoboCampground
    Hobo Campground in the Lower Kern Canyon

    Golden Trout Wilderness

    Golden Trout Wilderness Area

    granite Upper Kern River is Mount Whitney snow melt
    • 303,511 acres
    • elevation range 1,000′ – ­13,000′
    • pine forest, chaparral
    • granite walls, domes
    • 379 miles of trail
    • summers are busy
    • snow in winter
    • best in early spring
    • wood fires may be restricted
    • portable stoves permitted
    • water plentiful
    • rock climbing & mountaineering
    • fishing
    • backpacking
    • primitive hot springs
    • waterfalls, swimming holes
    • wilderness permits required for overnight
    Golden Trout Wilderness surrounds the mighty gorge of the Upper Kern Canyon, south of Mount Whitney.
    Inside

    TULARE COUNTY

    bordering

    Inyo National Forest

    Sequoia National Forest

    Eastern Sierra Interagency Center
    760-876-6200

    Golden Trout / South Sierra Wilderness Map USDA

    Golden Trout Trail Map

    Located in the South Sierra Nevada mountains alongside the Southern Sierra Wilderness. Inside the remote rugged peaks of a deep, granite crevasse known as the Upper Kern River with ancient Sequoia forest to the west and to the eats, some of the tallest peaks in the Sierra range. This wild land area is home to the California golden trout and is the main water flow southward from the tallest peak in the lower 48  – Mount Whitney on the Eastern Sierra front.

    Sequoia National Forest
    Monache Meadows
    Inyo National Forest
    Mountain Home State Forest
    Sequoia National Park
    Mineral King

    Golden Trout Wilderness

    Roads, campgrounds and trailheads surrounding Golden Trout Wilderness

    Eastern Sierra –

    Horseshoe Meadows Road (paved) leads up to high elevation meadows from the high deserts of Lone Pine, CA. Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) access; Mount Whitney and John Muir Wilderness are to the north. Equestrian corrals and horse trails. Camping is limited to a one night stay at any of the 3 campgrounds up here.

    Golden Trout Trailhead Campground: elevation 10,000′ / 12 walk-in sites / closed winter
    Horseshoe Meadows Campground: elevation 10,000′ / 18 walk-in sites / closed winter
    Cottonwood Equestrian Camp: elevation 10,000′ / 10 horse corrals / closed winter

    Forks of  the Kern –

    Fork of the Kern / Loyds Meadow Road #22S82 – This main paved road connects the Kern River (Sierra Hwy Road #99) to the lower elevation, granite slopes of the Western Divide, and the route dead ends at Jerky Meadow parking lot. Camp 1-6 are primitive camp areas located on dirt side roads and 4×4 might be required on some of them. Obtain a campfire permit from rangers in Kernville. Fishing, camping, waterfalls and swimming holes are popular in this region. The big developed camp along this road, is located 10 miles up, in a pine filled valley on Peppermint Creek on the west side of the street and is within the Giant Sequoia National Monument.

    Lower Peppermint Campground: elevation 5300′ / 17 camp sites / open year round

    Lloyd Meadows @ Sequoia Forest Road# 20S67 – is the Forks of the Kern Trailhead & the dirt road that accesses it, is very popular among equestrian campers.

    Western Divide Highway –

    Road #20S79 leads from Western Divide Hwy to Lewis trailhead.
    Road #20S50 leads from Western Divide Hwy to 2 hiking trailheads.

    Sequoia National Park, Three Rivers, CA –topo maps

    South Fork Road leads up Kaweah River at Southfork trailhead.
    Mineral King Road is only open seasonally, access to high country lakes and trailheads.

     

    SEQUOIA AREA MAPS –

    Golden Trout Wilderness Maps
    Sequoia National Forest Map USDA
    Inyo National Forest Map USDA
    Mineral King Map
    Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP Map
    NatGeo Sequoia Kings Map

    Golden Trout Wilderness trailheads:

    east side –
    Cottonwood Trailhead (near Lone Pine)
    Blackrock Trailhead (Monache Mdws)

    south side –
    Jerky Trailhead
    Forks of the Kern Trailhead
    Lewis Camp Trailhead (Western Divide)
    Summit Trailhead (Western Divide)
    Clicks Creek Trailhead (Western Divide)
    Camp Wishon Trailhead (Western Divide)

    west side –
    South Fork Trailhead (Three Rivers)
    Atwell Mill Trailhead (Silver City)
    Franklin Pass Trailhead (Mineral King)

    List of nearby towns: